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ALVA, Okla. â€“ Itâ€™s been a long time coming for the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team.
For the first time in seven years, the Rangers have won the Central Plains Regionâ€™s womenâ€™s team title, clinching the championship this past weekend by winning the Fort Hays (Kan.) State University rodeo.
Through nine of 10 events â€“ the final rodeo of the 2014-15 season will be this coming weekend at Oklahoma Panhandle State Universityâ€™s Doc Gardner Memorial Rodeo in Guymon, Okla. â€“ the Northwestern women have won five titles.
â€śIâ€™m very proud of our womenâ€™s team this year,â€ť said Stockton Graves, the Rangers rodeo coach. â€śWe set our goal at the first of the year to win the region, and weâ€™ve accomplished that. We have one more rodeo this season, and weâ€™d like to close that one out with a win.â€ť
Thatâ€™s highly possible. Northwestern is 849 points ahead of the second-place team, rival Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and nearly 1,100 better than No. 3 Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Winning at least half the events in a 10-rodeo season is a major statement.
â€śOur team has really worked together, and we try to build each other up,â€ť said Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., who won goat tying in Hays to clinch the region title. â€śIâ€™m pretty sure we all had that (team title) on our mind.â€ť
In Hays, Miller won the first round with a 7.7-second run, then finished second in the final round to win the title with a two-run cumulative time of 15.9 seconds â€“ half a second faster than the field, which included three other Rangers: Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz.; Elli Price of Leady, Okla.; and Tearnee Nelson of Faith, S.D. Barnes finished tied for third, while Price was sixth.
For the third time this season, Miller led the way for the Rangers.
â€śSheâ€™s had a huge impact on our womenâ€™s team,â€ť Graves said of Miller. “Sheâ€™s scored over 1,000 points in goat-tying. Sheâ€™s a real hard worker and gives those girls something to look up to. Sheâ€™s had a big influence on our team.â€ť
That makes a difference, especially on a team that has seen some success in recent years. The last two seasons, the Northwestern women also qualified as a team to the College National Finals Rodeo by finishing second in the region.
â€śEven though Iâ€™m leading it, Karley (Kile) and Lauren have put a lot of points in there,â€ť Miller said. â€śWe wouldnâ€™t be winning the region if it wasnâ€™t for all of us together.â€ť
Thatâ€™s a great building block for the teamâ€™s future. Any time a group sees success, it helps each individual in the group see how the work pays off.
â€śIt gives them some sort of pride and gives us something to look forward to and proves that we can do it,â€ť Graves said. â€śThey take pride in being one of the top two teams in the region and hopefully one of the top two teams in the nation.â€ť
Other short-round qualifiers for the women were breakaway roper Samantha McGuire of Backus, Minn. and barrel racer Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla. The Northwestern men were led by Laine Herl of Goodland, Kan., who placed in both heading and steer wrestling.
Herl won the short round in steer wrestling with a 5.4-second run and finished second in the two-run aggregate. He and heeler Chase Lako of Hunter, N.D., finished third in team roping. Another two-event star, Tyler Batie of Black Hawk, S.D., placed fifth in bulldogging and team roping, competing with heading teammate Edgar Fierro of Kingfisher, Okla. Another steer wrestler, Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, finished sixth.
The top Ranger in team roping was header Dalton Richards of Hawkinsville, Ga., who placed second with heeler Ben Whiddon of Southeastern. They finished in a tie for second place in the first round with Herl/Lako, then posted an 11.8-second run to finish second in the short round. Richards sits second in the region heading into the final event of the season.
â€śIâ€™ve been this close before, so Iâ€™m not really trying to think about it too much,â€ť said Richards, who will, â€śjust keep roping my game and see how it goes.â€ť
GUYMON, Okla. â€“ Lauren Heaton is quite proud to represent the state of Oklahoma as she travels the rodeo circuit in 2015.
She is the first Miss Rodeo Oklahoma to win the Miss Rodeo America title, and she will be in the Oklahoma Panhandle for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
â€śI was raised in Oklahoma rodeo,â€ť said Heaton, a 2013 Oklahoma State University graduate from Alva, Okla. â€śIt gave me so much. It created so much of who I am today. I want to take so much of what Oklahomans are. Thereâ€™s such a spirit to Oklahomans.
â€śI really hope to take that across the country and showcase that to the rest of the rodeo industry.â€ť
Heaton was crowned last December during the pageant that took place in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Sheâ€™s spent the last five months as the sportâ€™s primary ambassador.
Now sheâ€™s adding a home state rodeo to her list of events this season.
â€śWeâ€™re very excited to have Lauren coming back to Guymon this year,â€ť said Becky Robinson, a longtime member of the Pioneer Days Rodeo committee. â€śIt was important to us to have the first Oklahoman Miss Rodeo America in Guymon.â€ť
Heaton is one of many rodeo queens who will be part of the festivities. Itâ€™s just part of the overall package that is Pioneer Days Rodeo, which will feature seven straight days of competition with â€śslackâ€ť beginning at 8 a.m. through the weekdays â€“ steer roping will take place Monday, April 27, and Tuesday, April 28; team roping, steer wrestling and tie-down roping will be Wednesday, April 29, and Thursday, April 30; and barrel racing will be Friday, May 1.
In all, nearly 1,000 cowboys and cowgirls will be battling through the week for Oklahoma Panhandle cash. Guymon is a major stop on the ProRodeo tour.
â€śWe take a lot of pride in being a rodeo that the cowboys want to come to,â€ť said Jim Quimby, chairman of the rodeo committee. â€śWe have a great history of more than 80 years, and the contestants know that weâ€™re going to cater to them.â€ť
It makes sense. After all, cowboys with ties to the Oklahoma Panhandle have earned 12 gold buckles: saddle bronc riders Billy Etbauer (5), Robert Etbauer (2), Taos Muncy (2), Tom Reeves and Jeffery Willert join heeler Jhett Johnson as world champions. All six cowboys were part of the rodeo team at Oklahoma Panhandle State University in nearby Goodwell, Okla.
But there are many more contestants with ties to Texas County that are or have been NFR regulars, including two-time reserve world champion saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer, another Panhandle State rodeo team alumnus.
â€śWeâ€™re very proud of the cowboys and cowgirls that are from here and look forward to seeing them every year when they come back for our rodeo,â€ť Quimby said. â€śTo me, it shows everyone that we have some of the best cowboys in the world from right here.â€ť
BRIDGEPORT, Texas â€“ Commitment to the community is the key reason several locals are part of the volunteers who orchestrate the Bridgeport rodeo.
â€śWith Butterfield Stage Days, we try to draw some people from all walks of life to come and see what all we have to offer,â€ť said Katherine Hudson, now in her 20th year as one of the volunteers for the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, at Sunset Retreat Arena, formerly the Bridgeport Riding Club Arena.
â€śWith the rodeo and the festival, we want to have enough to do to attract not just those who are in the rodeo, but the people who follow the rodeo. We have something for them to do during the day time.â€ť
The rodeo will feature a brilliant mix of true athleticism and family entertainment, showcased by the brightest stars in professional rodeo. That includes the likelihood of Wise County world champions like Trevor Brazile and his brother-in-law, Tuf Cooper, both of whom brought more gold buckles home to north Texas in 2014.
But thereâ€™s so much more to the rodeo than the incredible competition; for the first time in the eventâ€™s history, highly decorated entertainer Troy â€śThe Wild Childâ€ť Lerwill will showcase his talents and brand of comedy for the Bridgeport crowd.
â€śYou learn something new every year, and you learn things you can do to make it better,â€ť said David Turnbow, chairman of the volunteer committee. â€śWe want to bring in things that will interest the crowd and try to get the whole community out there.â€ť
When competition and entertainment are combined, it makes for quite an entertaining two days.
â€śI enjoy putting on something in a small city that brings out a wide variety of people that like to watch but donâ€™t go anywhere else to watch,â€ť Hudson said. â€śThey have a chance at watching a professional cowboy that they might not have seen.â€ť
The local rodeo typically features regular qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Take the 2014 event, for example: Three-time world champion Will Lowe won the bareback riding title in Bridgeport, while Brazile â€“ who owns a ProRodeo record 21 world titles â€“ won the all-around crown. Other winners included National Finals qualifiers like saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley and steer roper Chet Herren.
â€śOur rodeo and the festival downtown are pretty darn huge for the community,â€ť Turnbow said. â€śJust the tax dollars that this thing brings in is incredible, with people staying in hotels, eating in the local restaurants and stopping at our fuel stations.
â€śI think the rodeo and the festival goes hand in hand very well and does some great things for our community.â€ť
BRIDGEPORT, Texas â€“ Like everyone else who volunteers each year to help produce the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo, Susan Millerâ€™s focus is on the community and not for any rewards that might come her way.
She has received one anyway. In 2014, Miller was named the rodeoâ€™s committee person of the year, an honor chosen by her peers as recognition for the time and talents sheâ€™s shared as a volunteer.
â€śI have spent seven years working on this rodeo, not for my own personal gain or to win an award, but for this community to have something special as this successful professional rodeo,â€ť said Miller, whose full-time post is as the marketing director for James Woods Motors in the neighboring Texas communities of Denton and Decatur. â€śTo be recognized for what I would have done to contribute to the success is absolutely awesome.â€ť
The work continues as the committee prepares for this yearâ€™s rodeo, the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, at Sunset Retreat Arena, formerly the Bridgeport Riding Club Arena.
â€śSusan has the mentality of getting after it,â€ť said David Turnbow, chairman of the rodeo committee. â€śI can call her and ask her for help, and sheâ€™s all over it. Sheâ€™ll do anything at any time, and she never complains. The key is she does it with a smile on her face every time.
â€śItâ€™s good to have people who enjoy volunteering and doing this.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve always been a community-minded person,â€ť she said. â€śIâ€™m raising my kids in this community, and I want it to thrive, be prosperous and be a place they can be proud of. The rodeo is just one small part of the overall, picture, but when that event is successful, many other factors in the community during that weekend are also successful.
â€śI have a son that rodeos, so being involved specifically in this rodeo helps me better understand everything he participates in.â€ť
She also has realized how much work goes into producing the Bridgeport rodeo. The planning began shortly after last yearâ€™s event concluded, and the labor has intensified over the last few months. The core group of volunteers handles everything necessary to make the one weekend a year a success. That means a lot of man-hours for each person on the committee.
â€śWe donâ€™t just show up out there on Friday and Saturday night of the rodeo weekend,â€ť Turnbow said. â€śThere are so many little things that take place, from having the right relationships with sponsors to making sure the promotion is done to setting up the arena.
â€śEverything that seems so flawless during the weekend of the rodeo has taken months to prepare. We wanted to go back to having the concert like we used to have, so having Phil Hamilton come in has been a big change. Somebody had to make sure it all happened.â€ť
The work is a vital part of making sure the community benefits.
â€śBridgeport may be a small town, but it is made up of people who have big ideas for our community,â€ť Miller said. â€śThose ideas are not just talked about; they are considered to be done. We welcome growth, and we welcome new ideas. I think we prosper at the thought of innovation.â€ť
BRIDGEPORT, Texas â€“ If music is deep in Phil Hamiltonâ€™s heart, Texas music is his soul.
He will put it all on the line Saturday, May 9, during a special concert as part of the annual Butterfield Stage Days celebration. The two-day gathering also features the Karl Klement Butterfield Stage Days Rodeo set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, at Sunset Retreat Arena, formerly the Bridgeport Riding Club Arena.
Hamilton originally is from Burleson, Texas, about an hour southeast of Bridgeport. His style of music is the perfect fit for the Butterfield Stage Days celebration, and itâ€™s why event organizers made plans for the Texas native to be part of the show.
â€śWeâ€™re very excited to have Phil Hamilton being the entertainment Saturday night,â€ť said Susan Miller, a key member of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. â€śItâ€™s generated a great deal of excitement for us, and I think the community feels the same way.â€ť
Hamilton has loved music since childhood, growing up in a musical family. His grandmother sang opera, and his aunt sang country. As a young adult, he discovered Texas acts like Robert Earl Keen, Charlie Robison and Pat Green, and Hamilton found his niche.
â€śI started writing some originals, but it didnâ€™t come natural to me at first,â€ť Hamilton said in his biography. â€śBack then I hadnâ€™t had enough experiences with love and loss and all that stuff to make great songs.â€ť
He continued to practice his writing skills and focusing on it.
â€śThatâ€™s when things started to take off,â€ť he said. â€śThe next thing I knew I was being offered a deal with Winding Road Music to record a full record.â€ť
Nothing To Lose was released in 2009 and featured two singles that reached the top 15 on the Texas charts. His second album, Renegade Rock N Roll, featured three No. 1 songs: â€śBad,â€ť â€śRunningâ€ť and â€śBack of a â€™73.â€ť He followed that with a third album from a legendary Fort Worth, Texas, club, Live At The Whiskey Girl Saloon.
â€śI was excited to show what we do live,â€ť Hamilton said. â€śMy only rule was that it had to be real authentic and 100 percent live, not re-cut or re-tracked, and we did it that way and it worked. It was just a phenomenal experience, and we captured the music just the way I wanted.â€ť
When heâ€™s not on the road playing before raucous audiences, Hamilton enjoys his time at home in Grandbury, Texas, where he combines his passion for music with the outdoors. Itâ€™s a great place for him to unwind and open the possibilities for his songwriting.
â€śI live on the road, but I donâ€™t write on the road,â€ť he said. â€śThere are too many things going on, and itâ€™s too tough for me to put my thoughts down out there. Hunting and the outdoors are my main things. When Iâ€™m home, half of the week Iâ€™m always out in the woods hunting or fishing.â€ť
ALVA, Okla. â€“ The Northwestern Oklahoma State University womenâ€™s rodeo team has inched closer to a major goal for this season.
With a dominating performance this past weekend, the Rangers are well within reach of clinching the Central Plains Region title. Northwestern posted 355 points to win the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo title and push its lead in the circuit standings to more than 700 points with just two events remaining on the 2014-15 season.
â€śI was proud of everybody,â€ť said Stockton Graves, the Rangers coach. â€śWe competed well. The women did well. The men actually did well, even though it didnâ€™t show up in the points.â€ť
Senior Karley Kile of Overbrook, Kan., led the way with Northwestern, winning both the all-around and breakaway roping titles in Weatherford. But she wasnâ€™t alone. In fact, Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D., was second in the all-around and, like Kile, qualified for the championship round in breakaway roping and goat tying.
Kile is third in the region in breakaway and is tied for eighth in goat tying. She has a chance to move to the top of the standings in the all-around heading into the Fort Hays (Kan.) State University rodeo this coming weekend and the Oklahoma Panhandle State University Doc Gardner Memorial rodeo the final weekend of April.
â€śThis really doesnâ€™t change anything,â€ť said Kyle, a two-time goat-tying qualifier for the College National Finals Rodeo. â€śIâ€™m still going to go for every rodeo.
â€śItâ€™s pretty exciting, since Iâ€™ve never done any good in the breakaway.â€ť
Miller leads the region standings in goat tying, followed by teammate Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz. In Weatherford, the Rangers women held eight spots in the short go-round: four in breakaway and two each in goat tying and barrel racing. In addition to Kile winning the breakaway title, Elli Price of Leady, Okla., finished in a three-way tie for third place in the average. They were joined in the final round by Sage Allen of Pawhuska, Okla.
Kile won the opening round with a 2.7-second run, then finished second in the short round with a 3.4. Her 6.1-second cumulative time on two runs was four-tenths of a second better than the field. Miller, meanwhile, placed second in the goat-tying aggregate with a two-run time of 16.2 seconds.
â€śIt was just a matter of time,â€ť Graves said of Kileâ€™s top finish. â€śWe needed her to do well, and I was plenty excited for her.â€ť
In barrel racing, Kelsey Cloud of Elk City, Okla., finished third with a two-run time of 35.33 seconds, while Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., also made the final round. Every move helped pave the way for the team to return to the college finals, set for June 14-20 in Casper, Wyo.
â€śShayna has obviously helped a lot, and Lauren has (too),â€ť Kile said. â€śAll the rest of the girls have stepped up their game this year. If we can take a team out there, it definitely helps out the school at the college finals.â€ť
The Northwestern men finished fifth at Southwestern but had seven cowboys qualify for the short round â€“ five were in team roping, led by senior heeler Dustin Searcy of Mooreland, Okla., who won both rounds and the average while roping with header Hunter Munsell of Western Oklahoma State College.
â€śIâ€™ve known (Hunter) since I was a little kid,â€ť Searcy said. â€śWe practiced a lot when we were kids. â€śWeâ€™ve always had a natural partnership where we roped good together and have always had a lot of success.â€ť
Searcy was joined in the short round by Northwestern teammates Jonathan Nixon of Paradise, Texas and Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah,who together finished fifth in the average, and Mike McGinn of Haines, Ore., and Stephen Culling of Fort St. John, British Columbia. Tie-down roper Maverick Harper finished sixth with a two-run cumulative time of 21.0 seconds, while Allred finished fifth in steer wrestling with a two-run time of 15.2.
The Northwestern men sit fifth in the team standings but have several cowboys who are in position to qualify for the college finals by the time the season concludes in a week and a half.
â€śWeâ€™ll just keep them focused on their goals and the plan, and hopefully weâ€™ll succeed,â€ť Graves said.
GUYMON, Okla. â€“ Thereâ€™s something in the water in Texas County, Okla.
This place is the breeding ground for great cowboys, whether theyâ€™re raised here or have transplanted to the Oklahoma Panhandle. There are plenty of great ones.
The proving ground has always been the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo. It will be again during this yearâ€™s championship, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
â€śItâ€™s an important one for me, for sure,â€ť said Trell Etbauer, a four-time Linderman Award winner from Goodwell, Okla., just 10 miles southwest of Guymon. â€śItâ€™s my hometown rodeo and the closest big rodeo I go to all year.â€ť
The son of two-time world champion Robert Etbauer and his wife, Sue, Trell grew up in this neck of the woods. He was a star athlete at Goodwell High School and a champion cowboy from youth rodeo through college at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
But heâ€™s one of many elite rodeo cowboys with ties to the Oklahoma Panhandle who have made their name on the ProRodeo trail. A list of world champions from the area is a good indication of that.
In addition to Robert Etbauer, there are 10 other gold buckles that have been earned by cowboys from the area once known as No Manâ€™s Land: Billy Etbauer has the most with five saddle bronc riding world titles, followed by Taos Muncy, who has two; fellow bronc riders Tom Reeves and Jeff Willert join heeler Jhett Johnson with one apiece.
They are just a few of the elite contestants who make their living in ProRodeo who have ties to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. Atop the list, though, is Trevor Brazile, a 21-time world champion who grew up in nearby Gruver, Texas. He is a 45-time qualifier to the National Finals that also owns a record 12 all-around gold buckles.
He isnâ€™t the only north Texas Panhandle cowboy to make the NFR; he was joined by Bray Armes, who also grew up near Gruver. This past December, they were joined in Las Vegas by Muncy and fellow bronc riders Cort Scheer, a Panhandle State alumnus and two-time Reserve World Champion, and Tyler Corrington, who lives near Gruver; and Joe Frost, a senior at Panhandle State who finished the 2014 season as the Reserve World Champion.
This is the perfect proving ground, but Pioneer Days Rodeo is a tough place to win. Nearly 1,000 contestants sign up to be part of the week long competition that concludes the first weekend in May each season.
â€śA lot of times, Guymon falls after the California run, so a lot of the guys heading back to Texas can hit it,â€ť Trell Etbauer said. â€śItâ€™s also one of the bigger rodeos, and all the guys go to those.â€ť
Those are the attractive features for the sportâ€™s greatest stars, but there are many more. The prize money is a key ingredient, but so is the competition. All steer ropers participate in four go-rounds, with the top 32 times returning for a fifth round. In tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling, each contestant is afforded two runs, with the top 40 teams returning for a third round.
Barrel racers all compete in the first round on Friday morning, then the top 40 times are brought back during the performances for the second round. When itâ€™s all mixed together, it allows for a cut-throat approach to the big purse.
â€śIâ€™ve placed in some rounds and placed in the average in calf roping and steer wrestling, but Iâ€™d really like to win it at least once,â€ť Etbauer said. â€śYou always want to win your hometown rodeo, and itâ€™s usually the toughest to win. Guymon is especially tough, because so many great cowboys are there.â€ť
TOP ARTISTS, WESTERN EVENTS MAKES FOR FUN 4 DAYS AT SYCAMORE SPRINGS RANCH
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. â€“ A beautiful spring leads to incredible nighttime views in picturesque eastern Oklahoma.
Thereâ€™s no better setting for star gazing than in the rolling hills near this historic community. The stars get a little brighter during Cord McCoyâ€™s Western Days, set for Thursday, April 16-Sunday, April 19, at Sycamore Springs Ranch just south of Locust Grove.
â€śWhen I came up with the idea for Western Days, I wanted to attract people to the lifestyle we live every day and show everyone all the things that go into a true Western festival,â€ť said McCoy, a champion rodeo cowboy who, with brother Jet, was a three-time fan favorite on â€śThe Amazing Race,â€ť a CBS-TV reality series. â€śWhat weâ€™ve come up with is so much more.
â€śWeâ€™re going to have great country Western artists the first three nights, including legendary Red Stegall, David Frizzell and the Jason Roberts Band. Iâ€™m excited about that, because itâ€™s a great way to conclude a full day.â€ť
Western Days is loaded with plenty of opportunities for festival-goers. In addition to the plethora of events going on at the various arenas on the sprawling Sycamore Springs Ranch, a nightly rodeo will be part of each dayâ€™s festivities. In fact, the event will conclude at 6 p.m. Sunday with the Cord McCoy Bull Riding Challenge, which will feature a $10,000 bounty bull and Frank Newsome Freestyle Bullfights.
â€śWe want to make every day exciting,â€ť McCoy said. â€śThatâ€™s why weâ€™re having the concerts and why we want to feature rodeo every evening.â€ť
This is the perfect venue for cowboys of all types â€“ from those who have lived their lives horseback to those who have just dreamed about it. Thatâ€™s why there are numerous festivities taking place throughout each day: Western events and competitions, chuck wagon feasts and a daily exotic trail ride across the beautiful Sycamore Springs Ranch.
A Western trade show will be a major part of each dayâ€™s activities. The opening day will feature a Western showdown, ranch sorting practice, the Ultimate Western Challenge and Dick Pieper Horsemanship, appealing to all levels of cowboys.
Fridayâ€™s festivities will include those and a cattle dog demonstration, the ranch sorting competition, a team roping championship, a steer roping contest and a miniature rodeo tour. Added on Saturday will be the Silver Select Horse Sale and a barrel racing challenge, while Sunday will include the Western Worship Service and a ranch rodeo.
â€śI was raised around all this and love it, but I wanted it to be more,â€ť McCoy said. â€śIâ€™ve traveled around the world three times, and I wanted to appeal to every person that has ever watched a Western or ever thought about being a cowboy.
â€śI want the guy who wears a suit every day to come and enjoy and trade out his business shoes for cowboy boots for a few days. I think this is something heâ€™ll enjoy, too.â€ť
GUYMON, Okla. â€“ Dirty Jacket is one of the most decorated bucking horses in ProRodeo.
The 11-year-old bay gelding from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo is the reigning Bareback Horse of the Year as voted on by members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He also has been one of the top three horses in the year-end voting each of the past three seasons.
At the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December, the athletic horse proved the accolades, guiding cowboys to go-round victories both times he bucked inside the Thomas & Mack Center: Richmond Champion of The Woodlands, Texas, won the fifth round, while Caleb Bennett of Tremonton, Utah, claimed the 10th-round title.
â€śThereâ€™s not another horse like him,â€ť said Champion, who also won the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days title after a 91-point ride in July. â€śDirty Jacket mightâ€™ve even looked better than he did that day in Cheyenne.â€ť
The fifth and 10th rounds featured the greatest bucking horses in rodeo, an elite list of phenomenal athletes. Even then, Dirty Jacket stood out. Now he will have a chance to stand out again at the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena. Itâ€™s a place where heâ€™s guided cowboys to the prestigious Guymon title four times in the last seven years.
â€śThere wasnâ€™t a bad horse in the pen, but to have Dirty Jacket again at the NFR and to win the round was awesome,â€ť said Champion, who shared the Guymon title last year on Fancy Free, another great Carr bucking horse. â€śThereâ€™s not another night that you get to walk down the alley with that caliber of horse standing all next to each other.
â€śThat same feeling runs in all of us to see that kind of horse lined up for us, just standing outside the Thomas & Mack. Thatâ€™s what dreams are made of in this sport.â€ť
Itâ€™s the same feeling Bennett had when he prepared for the final night of the competition. It had been a rough week for the Utah cowboy, who had placed in just one round prior to the 10th night.
â€śI couldnâ€™t have been more blessed and ask for anything more than to end it the way I did on Dirty Jacket,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s a phenomenal horse and definitely one of the ones you want to have in this round.â€ť
The powerful gelding is one of four Pete Carr horses that have received the top honor in bareback riding, joining pasture-mates like Real Deal, Big Tex and MGM Deuces Night. In 2013, when Dirty Jacket was named Reserve World Champion Bareback Horse, he helped cowboys to at least a share of the title 12 of 13 times he performed during the regular season. In 2014, his wins were just as miraculous.
Championâ€™s 91 in Cheyenne was one of two of the highest marked rides of the campaign. The other was by Steven Dent, who rode Dirty Jacket for a matching 91 on the final weekend of the regular season at the Cowboy Capital of the World Rodeo in Stephenville, Texas, in September.
â€śAny time you can draw one that everybody wants, youâ€™re happy with it whether youâ€™re in that situation or itâ€™s a regular-season rodeo,â€ť said Dent, a seven-time NFR qualifier from Mullen, Neb. â€śYou donâ€™t have the opportunity to get on a horse that you can be that many points on and thatâ€™s that fun to get on very often in your life, much less the last week of the year when youâ€™re trying to make the NFR.
â€śThat is a really great horse. There are not very many of them like him that do it every time, that are that electric, jump that high in the air and that you can be that many points on.â€ť
The horse has been selected to buck at the NFR each of the past seven seasons. Earlier this year, Jessy Davis scored 93 points during the Cinch Shootout at the San Angelo Stock Show Rodeo.
â€śHe has a huge frame, but heâ€™s so athletic from nose to tail. He just looks like an athlete. If you could pick a horse out of a herd that could jump nine feet in the air, heâ€™s that horse,â€ť Champion said. â€śIf youâ€™re going to win a big rodeo, thatâ€™s the horse you want.â€ť
Dirty Jacket is powerful, athletic and consistent, but what makes him a proven winner year after year is in the effort he puts forward every trip. He has the heart of a champion.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€“ Over the course of the last century, the American Royal has been one of the top giving organizations in the Midwest.
In 2014, the American Royal issued more than $1 million to its mission of supporting youth, education and agriculture.
Its charity is going to increase starting in 2015.
The examples are plenty, from increasing the scholarships for various programs to providing more opportunities for youth to learn more about agricultureâ€™s place in todayâ€™s society. The purpose of the American Royal continues to hold tight those beliefs that helped establish Kansas City so many years ago.
For instance, the Royal will increase by $10,000 the amount of scholarship funds awarded to the University of Missouri and Kansas State University through the Veterinary Scholars Program. Through the end of 2014, the organization provided $7,500 to each vet school; that increases to $12,500 this year.
â€śOur education committee will also develop additional opportunities for the vet scholars to interact with other American Royal programs,â€ť Mitchell said. â€śWe believe the American Royal is a great teaching opportunity for vet scholars, and we want to develop other ways to improve those relationships and build our future leaders.â€ť
The association also will increase the number of scholarships for the Royal Scholars Program from six to 10 while also increasing the scholarship by twice the amount to $5,000. The Royal also expects to increase the number of Calf Scramble invitees while continuing its commitment to funding the program.
â€śEvery step we take is to provide greater opportunities and hopefully build on the agrarian values we deem so important,â€ť Mitchell said.
The association also is partnering with the Agriculture Future of America organization, which, like the Royal, supports education, scholarship and leadership development for students interested in pursuing careers in agriculture. The American Royal will team with the AFA with a $10,000 scholarship.
â€śWe believe in the Agriculture Future of Americaâ€™s mission, and we want to show our support for another organization that has the same values with the American Royal,â€ť Mitchell said. â€śThis partnership will enable us to keep building for future agriculture leaders.â€ť
The Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo is the perfect test for the top regional cowboys from all across the country.
The Texas-based stock contractor will feature 36 animals at the RNCFR, set for Wednesday-Saturday in Kissimmee, Fla. That is the largest contingent of animal athletes from all the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association stock contractors in Florida.
The list of Carr animals includes a big number that have bucked at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, including bulls Medicine Show, Footloose, Cajun Smurf, Line Man and Mind Games; saddle broncs Cool Runnings, Mike & Ike, Empty Pockets, Lone Star, Gold Coast, Spur Strap and Lori Darling; and bareback horses Ragin Angel, Witchy Woman, Ladies Man, Utopia, Yo Yo, Night Bells, Alberta Child, Big Lights and Real Deal, a former Bareback Horse of the Year.
With that kind of firepower, itâ€™s bound to be an explosive race to the national championship.